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Delightful 1836 Reeded Edge Half Dollar, The First Coin Struck by Steam Press in the United States.

In
our upcoming August ANA World’s Fair of Money auction there will be plenty of
“eye candy” on display, numerous opportunities for collectors and investors
alike, and countless rarities that spark the imagination and appreciation of
numismatics. One lot in particular really gets me excited, an 1836 Capped Bust
Reeded Edge half dollar, certified by PCGS as AU-53. This issue represents the
vision of a new Mint director, a new-era of numismatic design, and new
technology of coin production.

Shortly
after being appointed Mint director, Robert Maskell Patterson (son of the
fourth Mint director Robert Patterson) sought to redesign the nation’s coinage
to make it more aesthetically pleasing. He brought on Christian Gobrecht as
assistant engraver to assist Chief Engraver William Kneass, who had recently
suffered a major stroke. Gobrecht’s engravings were largely based on the
previous Capped Bust half dollar type, and Mint Director Patterson himself
stated, “We do not, indeed, consider this a new coin…” Nonetheless, several
important refinements were made to the design, and the fineness of the silver
was changed to .900. Perhaps more important however, was the departure from the
open collar method of manufacture using a screw press. The Mint would employ
the new Thonnelier steam press for all coins in short order, but the first
denomination to get the honors was the half dollar. With the new technology,
the Mint was able to produce coins much more efficiently, and at a time when
the half dollar was the workhorse denomination of the economy, it makes perfect
sense why it was first. An added benefit of the steam press was the close
collar that allowed for edge reeding to be imparted on the coin as it was
struck, completely unlike the previous lettered edge type that required special
treatment of the planchets with a Castaing machine to impart their lettered
edges. Further, now the diameters of the coins were precise, whereas the
lettered edge types were often quite varied, and stacking the coins for
commercial purposes was sometimes difficult.

In
the short-lived Capped Bust, Reeded Edge half dollar series, there are but five
regular issues to collect, and the 1836 and the 1839-O are the most difficult
to find in pleasing About Uncirculated condition or higher. Many have been
harshly cleaned, damaged or otherwise mishandled. Thankfully, this example is
free from any such impairment. The surfaces display soft champagne-gold centers and are framed by splashes of attractive
rose-gold and cobalt blue at the peripheries where hints of original luster remain
nestled among the stars. The devices are uniformly bold and display minimal
evidence of wear on the highest points of the design. A handsome AU with strong
visual appeal, this piece will draw significant interest, and is sure to sell
for a premium bid. I, for one, will certainly be watching. For more information
on our official auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money or to consign your
coins to this exciting event, visit StacksBowers.com or call 800-458-4646.

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